Tag Archives: ghost

A Ghost of Christmas Past


In September of 2003, I lost the man who was everything to me growing up. My grandfather was as close to a father as I would get, and he was probably one of the strongest men I’ve ever known. From late 2001 until his passing, he went through a great many changes in his life, and his strength was sapped beyond repair.

That Christmas was hard on us all. Due to family conflict, we were missing half of the extended family, and the other quarter all had other commitments that day. To go from being a family of about 35, down to myself and the girls, my two brothers and my mom… it was heartbreaking. Memories of Christmases past haunted me like no other day. I could look out the porch window and imagine my grandparent’s old two-story, alive with their four kids, three in-laws, and nine grandchildren. Not to mention the uncle (divorced from my grandfather’s sister, but still part of the family), and their ‘adopted’ son, who’d grown up with their kids after being sent here to recover from polio in the fifties. A lot of what-ifs hovered sadly in my mind that day.

The sadness in my mother’s house was palpable. None of us really wanted to celebrate Christmas, and I’d already celebrated Yule with my circle-mates. A tension gripped us all as though we were going through the motions only because we had to. And that was exactly what we were doing.

Just when I thought I couldn’t take any more, my mother nearly had a meltdown over not having the right kind of cranberry sauce. Granted, this could have been the grief and the overall atmosphere, but I doubt it. There was cranberry jelly, and crushed cranberry sauce. We could have made do, and probably would have, but… I volunteered to go over to my grandparent’s to rummage through the pantry and see if there was a can of whole berry sauce there.

It broke my heart to go into that house and remember the few Christmases the family had there. It was my grandfather’s dream home, the one he designed himself, and built himself for the most part. He was in the very walls, literally. He poured his heart and soul into building that house. When I stood in the breezeway, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness of the house, I remembered standing in the old house, the first Christmas that we spent in the new one. I’d snuck out and gone over to the old house and just stood where we should have been eating dinner.

I stood there, somewhere between the old and the new, when a familiar scent caught my attention. Gillette shaving cream and Right Guard antiperspirant. I shrugged it off, and mounted the stairs to the kitchen and dining room. The further I went down the hall, the stronger the smell, and by the time I was at the kitchen, I was nearly in tears. Grandpa.

The cranberry sauce was right there, at the front of the middle shelf. All by itself, away from the canned goods and the dry goods. Just waiting. As I closed the pantry door, I felt the hair on the back of my neck rise, and a shiver run down my spine. I was being watched, and I knew I was alone in the house.

I took a few steps toward the bathroom, but decided I really didn’t want to look in there, not when I could still smell the shaving cream and the Right Guard… only now I could also detect just the faintest whiff of Listerine, as well. I turned right, and zipped down the hallway and down the stairs as quickly as I could – not from fright, but from grief. It hurt, smelling the familiar smells of my grandfather getting ready to go out and about. I stopped, though, when I was able to see across the landing and down the hall.

I had to. The whistling really wasn’t something I could ignore. See, my grandfather had a very distinctive way of whistling when he was happy, or when he was working, or when he was getting presentable. Particularly when he was getting presentable. I even recognized the tune, this time – it sounded very much like he was whistling “I Ain’t Been Long.” I don’t know what it’s real title is, but that’s what we all called it. I listened for several seconds, and finally found my voice.

“Dinner’s almost ready, Grandpa, come on over.”

The whistling stopped, and I left the house. As I started up the steps to the door at mom’s, I turned around to look back at my grandparent’s house. There in his bedroom window, stood Grandpa, looking out and smiling. I waved, and he was gone.

Jodi Lee is publisher and editor in chief of Belfire Press and The New Bedlam Project. Her writing has appeared in several recent anthologies as well as magazines on and offline for the past decade. Having shelved her first novel for the time being, she is currently working on two (or three) novels set in the fictional town of New Bedlam.

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Supernatural Beings in fiction

Supernatural beings in every form have been gracing our bookshelves for centuries. As readers we are so used to reading about ghosts, witches, vampires, shape-shifters and so many other beings. Has their popularity run out? Are people wanting more subtle forms of the supernatural? Not according to what is popular on the top twenty fiction lists. Vampires reign supreme at the moment with Stephenie Meyer and Charline Harris standing out as the incredibly popular. But what makes  the supernatural being so very alluring?

Is it the unrequited yearning that is so obvious in these books that calls to our souls and pushes us to read the vampire’s story over and over? Is it the base animatistic primal instinct that has us running for more shapeshifter stories? The magic in stories of witches and parallel fantasy lands feeds our imagination and transports us to a magical place that is beyond the mundane capacity of our daily existence.

Yes, supernatural, paranormal and fantasy books are here to stay. They are obviously tapping into a universal need for magic, fantasy and imagination that we need in our reading. But what is to come next? Are there any other slants on the tried and tested stories that have been with us for generations? How many different ways can a vampire, witch or any mythical creature be portrait? That is what is wonderful about the world of fiction, the possibilities are boundless.

But are we becoming blaze about the nuances of the supernatural. It is everywhere in our popular culture, both fiction and non-fiction. I recently opened a non-fiction book about witches and pagans only to find it filled with pictures from the popular television series “Charmed”. This got me thinking, with all of the special effects in movies and tv and all of the graphic description now prevalent in books, what about the subtlety of real life magic.

Do all these effects and graphics take away from what is really practiced and achieved through real life pagans, witches and the like? Does it downplay the very real magic that is felt at a ritual or when magic happens in your life? Is the real life magic enough or is it an anticlimax against the fiction of today?

I dont know the answer, but I do think that we need to see the real miracle and magic that happens to us on a daily basis. And we need to encapsulate the emotion, culture, history and fun of the fantasy and paranormal fiction that is shaping our modern literature culture.